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Posted by David Reed on 09/14/2021

World News

Lockheed's Starliner

by David Reed

     The story of Lockheed’s famed model 1649A can be traced to the early jets and turboprops. In the late 40’s and early 50’s, jet engines were unreliable and burned fuel faster than a Kuwait oil well. The turboprop promised to be more economical, and some manufacturers were looking at the turboprop as the engine of the future. Lockheed looked at making the 1049C and 1049G into a turboprop, the 1449 and 1549. While tests showed the turboprop was faster, it still had high fuel consumption rates compared to the Wright R3350’s. Turboprop reliability was still a dream, too. Lockheed knew Boeing (and later Douglas) were working on jet designs, but they were skeptical of this radical new design built around a thirsty and unreliable powerplant. Would the jet become a boondoggle and bankrupt anyone who bought it? Serious airline board members around the world worried about just that, and pressed for improved airliners like those now flying (and making money). So, Lockheed began work on the L1649A.

The big desire back then was range and speed. The DC6 competed with the L749A. The DC7 competed with the L1049. But everyone wanted to fly non-stop from Europe to the US against the prevailing westerlies, and US carriers wanted to fly from the east coast to California non-stop every time. The introduction of the DC-7C sealed it. The DC-7C could fly farther and faster than a Stratocruiser, and go non-stop from New York to almost any European city. Lockheed customers wanted the same, but despite Lockheed’s reluctance, the 1649A went forward. Lockheed knew the jets were coming, and they weren’t too keen on investing a lot of money into a new design, but Howard Hughes insisted. Lockheed tried to keep it simple, but everything new eventually becomes complicated. The fuselage and engines were the same as the 1049 with some improvements. The wing, though, was all new. A new airfoil shape, increased span, additional fuel capacity. The 1649A could cruise as fast as a DC-7C and go as far, but it did cost quite a bit more than the Douglas. A second variant, the turboprop-powered 1649B, was considered but never got off the drawing board. TWA, Air France and Lufthansa put the 1649A on their Trans-Atlantic routes immediately, as well as other long-range flights. TWA flew them coast to coast domestically. Air France went from Paris to Tokyo, via Anchorage. Still, only 44 1649A’s were built. One TWA aircraft crashed after a structural failure led to an inflight breakup. One Air France aircraft was lost to a saboteur who blew it up over the Sahara Desert.

While the DC-7C and 1649A were being developed and put into service, jet engines were becoming more reliable and more efficient, mostly through military experience. Once a more reliable jet was built (the civilian version of the P&W J57, the JT3C), the jet literally took off. The public went crazy for jets, and soon after the 707 appeared on the Trans-Atlantic routes the 1649A faded away, as did the DC-7C. While it was indeed the ultimate airliner, it simply got passed by technological advances in aviation. Compared to the 707/DC8, there was just no comparison. 

New Mini Event- Find-A-Route

    The Historic Airline Group has a new mini-event this fall, it's our Find-A-Route Event. We give you a departure point and destination. You find the airline connections that will get you there. Complete the event for a special participation ribbon. The end of summer route today is Appleton WI to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and return. You are a Product Manager for Miller Electric, an arc welding and cutting firm. You are hoping to start a new shop in San Pedro Sula to provide arc welding services throughout the Central American region. You may depart from either Appleton or Green Bay, they're quite close together. No charters, no cargo flights. Enjoy! 

 

Fall Capital Events- Canada

    September- Canada. The Historic Airline Group has a new event this fall, it's our Fall Capital Events. Over the next four months, we will visit four regions and fly to ten capitals in each region. To start, we will fly to ten capitals in Canada, including Toronto, Quebec City, Halifax, Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton, St John's, Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Iqaluit. The rules are simple: Beginning in Toronto, fly to these ten cities in any order, using flights from the HAG timetable. Toronto is just a starting point. Fly to whatever cities you need to reach the other Canadian capitals. When done, send us an email for the appropriate award ribbon. Through December we will also visit ten European capitals, ten African capitals and ten US capitals. Passenger or cargo, it's all about working the schedules. Visit new places, fly a variety of aircraft, and rise to the challenge! Enjoy!


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